Living Pathways: Meditations on sustainable cultures and cosmologies in Asia

 
9789675719097: Living Pathways: Meditations on sustainable cultures and cosmologies in Asia

Globalisation and technological progress have ushered us into a new era of development. Never before has the promise of the Good Life in a hedonistic, consumerist utopia, been within reach for so many. Yet a significant portion of humanity is still unable to meet their basic needs. These trends are unsustainable, and beg the question: Where are we heading as a global community... and at what cost? In 2005, M. Nadarajah embarked on a journey into the heart of Asia to research culturally imbedded notions of sustainable development. He met with the indigenous communities of the Henanga, Ainu, Lanna, Karen, Kankanaey, Balinese and several others. These cultures reside far from the problems of mainstream development, both physically and spiritually. Their lifestyles incorporate philosophies of interconnectedness; of the sacredness of nature; of the continuity of Past, Present and Future. Rather than offer notions of sustainable development, these life-affirming philosophies pave a pathway towards a deep sustainability. On this path, we find answers to how we must change as a society in order for us to preserve our world for all future generations. But do we have the collective will to overcome our consumptive habits and start living responsibly? Living Pathways offers its readers a chance to meditate upon these questions. It provides meaningful directions towards the spiritual paths of sustainable communities we often take for granted. Above all, it shows the reader a picture of the world we live in as it could be, if only we choose to make it so.

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About the Author:

M. Nadarajah, or Nat, earned a Ph.D. in Sociology from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, in 1993. His doctoral thesis was published in 1999 as Culture, Gender and Ecology Beyond Workerism. Nat has spent his life working on the interconnected issues of communication, process development and management, culture, spirituality and sustainability. He has written several books on these issues, Another Malaysia is Possible and Other Essays Writings on Culture and Politics for a Sustainable World and his co-edited book Urban Crisis Culture and the Sustainability of Cities are noteworthy contributions. He is one of the pioneers of the Global Centre for the Study of Sustainable Futures and Spirituality . In 2005, Nat became an Asian Public Intellectual Fellow, sponsored by the Nippon Foundation. This allowed him to embark on a research pilgrimage that inspired the meditations presented here in Living Pathways.

Review:

Living pathways: Meditations on sustainable cultures and cosmologies in Asia is a remarkable, beautiful, and very valuable book. As the author Manickam (Nat) Nadarajah points out, it can be enjoyed in many ways visually, verbally, emotionally, and spiritually. All of these ways engage the reader and heighten his or her awareness of the importance, timeliness, and relevance of the book. Acting on the author s advice, I leafed through the pages of the book in a very cursory manner first, stopping to feast my eyes on all the exquisite people, faces, images, scenes, and scenery depicted there. The satisfaction that was derived from this was immense. Following this, I read Fr. Niphot Thianvihan s Afterword Coming Full Circle: Completing the Journey from Sustainability to Spirituality and wished everyone in the world could read this urgent and crucial message. I then read Nat's thirty-two Meditations very carefully, pausing after reading each one to reflect on the profound insights and messages contained therein, as well as learning that each meditation possessed powerful ideas and evocative images with respect to the world of the future and the role that sustainable cultures and cosmologies in Asia can play in this. This enabled me to see that these meditations indeed the entire book including the Appendix lead us to a world that is far more in keeping with the emotional, sustainable, and spiritual requirements of the future than the physical, material, and technical demands of the present. I strongly recommend this book to everyone who is concerned about the way forward in the new millennium. It is one of the most far-sighted, thoughtful, and moving statements I have ever read on what is wrong with the current world system and what is required to set things right. --D. Paul Schafer, Director, World Culture Project

The first thing that struck me about this book, when it came to me for a review, is its visual appeal. It is layered with photographs and graphics which have, not so obvious, resonance with the themes and textual content of the book. It is a pleasure to leaf through a book which has an excellent layout and design; a rarity I think for books engaging with a thought provoking issue of where humanity is headed. M. Nadarajah asks: Is urbanism the terminal stage of human civilisation as we know it (p 27)? He strongly believes that we have become acclimatised creatures of careless convenience and blind citizens of urban centres (p 27). He avers that mainstream urbanisation is a torrential river that has swept away many fine tuned tenuously sustainable cultures that have taken years to build . The book, appropriately titled the Living Pathways, is a journey and a research pilgrimage searching for answers to sustainability, among people who are less touched by the glitter and glamour of the urban way of life. The author embarks on a journey, informed by his own life s trajectories and questions, into the interiors of Asia and meets many indigenous tribes and communities: the Henanga, Ainu, Lanna, Karen, Konkanaey, and Balinese, among others. He travels through much of Asia: Chiang Mai, Jakarta, Bali, Manila, Baguio City, Sagada, Ifugoo, Kyoto, Kanazawa, Nara, Tokyo, Hokkaido and Hiroshima. What he learns from these communities and through this journey is that people do not just practice (emphasis mine) sustainable development, but live it. The difference between the two is between having and being , he writes (p 11). This difference makes Nadarajah drop the word sustainable development and use the word sustainability which indicates textured narrative of a cosmogony where everything is linked to each other. The book, in short is inspiring, it combines intellectual acumen and scholarship with emotional insights and sources into a seamless narrative, making me realise that the Cartesian mind body separation has become de rigueur in the world of letters and scholarships, and that rarely a writings combines the spirit and the body. The book also makes me wonder why is that in the Indian context we have not been able to maintain this deeper interconnectivity, a triad as it were of spiritual-natural-human world, despite the many pools of spiritual founts and sources? What is that makes people be seduced by the here and now world of crass consumerism? And why is that some communities have resisted this onslaught of growth oriented consumerist material world? As a sociologist/ social anthropologist my training has been to ask why people do what they do, before I can engage with what is an ideal. I am not sure the book answers some of these questions. But surely the spirit of the book should push us into answering those questions through further research. --Kiranmayi Bhushi,Associate Professor,Sociology, School of Social Sciences Indira Gandhi National Open University

when I think of Living Pathways, a book that is not rigidly formatted by linearity, I find it a unique book, a South-Asian book, a new type of book surely not a non-book making an unusual though most successful use of images. In this case, the slogan I like to use, applies most aptly in this case: one does not take photos, one makes images. As you look through the photos of Living Pathways, you sense that someone is making images. The author is an iconographer. And it is also unique that he presents his images mostly each in a full page and without captions. What may appear missing to some users of the book may work as an invitation to look at the image and allow it to sort of work into you. Take, for instance, the image on the front cover of the book. You definitely have two levels of people: some on the stage and others below it. It is difficult not to see there a representation of two classes of people: those below work on the production of plants, those on the stage, in somewhat overly formal dresses, proceed in what seems to be a highly ritualized performance with or without any relevance to the people working down the stage in the water. Moreover, as the whole image represents two social levels of people, those on the stage are again divided into three social levels by the way they are dressed. In comparison the workers are similarly dressed. Strikingly, this same image appears again at the very end of the 32 meditations of this book. But the image occupies not just one page as on the cover but exactly two pages. The image is not enlarged but shows a larger part of reality. Thus whereas you have 18 people on the stage in the cover image, there are 19 people on the image of pages 104-105. And whereas there are 4 workers on the cover, there are 12 on the image inside the book. Could that suggest that in the book itself more attention is given to the ordinary people? The figures are very well designed and are marked with useful captions. On the other hand, the photographs, big or small have no caption whatsoever. It is evident that the author is of the opinion that you do not need captions for the photos. Indeed captions might distract the reader. Besides, while the text is addressed to the mind, the images are offered to the heart. The images create in you the feeling that helps you to understand the text. Another unique thing in the images is that there are four full pages containing over 60 portraits of Asian people. And in this one case you have a single caption for all the portraits, rather discrete on one of the four pages: Dedications. Have you ever seen -or have you ever looked at- over sixty portraits without having any information as to the names, place and time when these images were made? The fact is, in another section of the book titled acknowledgements; you probably have much more than sixty names of people to whom Dr. Nat gave thanks for their help. But then, supposing that the acknowledgements include the information about the persons photographed like their names, place and date of the photos, even if that information was printed next to the concerned person, would that information be of any help to you? I doubt it. What we are offered is the opportunity of looking at faces, the faces of our brothers and sisters. --Gaston Roberge, Executive Secretary, Social Communications for the Society of Jesus in Rome

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M. Nadarajah
Published by Archipelago Press (SG), Penang, Malaysia (2014)
ISBN 10: 9675719095 ISBN 13: 9789675719097
New Hardcover First Edition Quantity Available: 4
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The Penang Bookshelf
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Book Description Archipelago Press (SG), Penang, Malaysia, 2014. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 1st Edition. One of the main features of the post World War II scene has been the startling development of many Asian countries into being often bigger and better examples of industrial development than the pre-war industrial North. In this book the author, one of the main movers at the Global Centre of Sustainable Futures and Spirituality, charts a different development more rooted in the varied Asian cultural and spiritual traditions. He sets out to show, through a selection of community case studies, how such developments , although less publicised, may well outlast the widely trumpeted Asian industrial regeneration. 153 pages. Please see the scan of the contents page for further details. Weight: 1kg. Post free within Malaysia. Bookseller Inventory # AS255

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